The subtitle of Kelefa Sanneh’s New Yorker article on progressive rock reads “Critics think that the genre was an embarrassing dead end. So why do fans and musicians still love it?”
As a recovering musician and an ardent fan of the genre, I’ve always been somewhat baffled by the prog haters out there. And speaking as a former critic, it’s simply not true that prog is a dead end—embarrassing or otherwise. The success of Kscope is proof of that.
In fact, it’s precisely those artists who have been influenced by Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, et al.—like, oh, I dunno…Steven Wilson—who seem to be the only ones doing anything remotely interesting these days. (To his credit, Sanneh reminds readers that Tool, Meshuggah, and Opeth are also “latter-day [prog] innovators.”)
Like any musical genre, there’s both good and bad. If you dismiss all of prog because, like Robert Christgau, you think that the members of Emerson, Lake & Palmer were “as stupid as their most pretentious fans,” then you miss out on Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. And that would be a shame.